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How do New Zealand’s online retailers track in SEO? Pure SEO investigates

A large number of ranking signals were examined based on user search behaviour, and search engine results positions were differentiated between desktop and mobile results. The team also looked at the following SEO ranking fundamentals:

  • Technical SEO factors, carried out by Lighthouse, e.g. Speed Index and DOM size,
  • Off-page factors, e.g. inbound links and referring domains, and
  • On-page factors, e.g. URLs, meta data and HTML headings.

The data was collated using the Google Adwords API and manual labour to generate a large volume of search queries within the clothing industry. Keyword ideas were downloaded for known retailers, including AS Colour, Barkers, Cotton On, Forever New, Glassons, H&M, The Iconic, Zara and more. Next, the top 4000 search phrases with the most monthly search volume were plugged into Keyword Planner to get additional ideas and related searches. They uncovered almost 3 million possible keyphrases with monthly search volume. Duplicates were removed, and phrases split into groups and then sorted with descending monthly search volume. Next, 10,000 non-brand and non-location keyphrases were chosen, and 99 single-word clothing keywords were added.

All in all, 10,099 keyphrases within the clothing category were studied, ranging from 1 to 6-word phrases. Both desktop and mobile results were scraped down to the 50th position, and only HTLML files were analysed. Over 134 GB of raw data was collected.

The report reveals interesting SEO data and provided several unexpected insights into New Zealand’s online clothing market. This is due to a number of factors, including the nature of the industry’s competitors, and New Zealand’s geographical isolation and relatively low population. However, there were also some conventional results, e.g. exact keyword matches weighted towards the beginning of meta titles ranked higher.

We explore some of the most note-worthy findings below.

Top 30 website occurences

The graph above shows the number of times particular websites appeared in Google’s top 30 desktop search results for the selected key phrases.

Unsurprisingly, Amazon appears over 14,000 times in the top 30 results. However, the American e-commerce giant only appeared in the top three results 15 percent of the time (around 4,200 times). The Iconic, however, appears little over 3,000 times overall, but surfaced in the top three results 33 percent of the time.

What’s the verdict here? While Amazon dominates the SERPs by sheer volume of pages/products, we can infer that The Iconic provides more relevant results for the target audience. Cotton On and ASOS reveal similar results.

These numbers further suggest that Kiwi users find results from local and known brands more relevant to their clothing queries. The Iconic and Cotton On are huge players in the NZ clothing market, and ASOS is a Kiwi-loved international online store, which retails popular brands, as well as its own design label.

Document object model (DOM) size

When it comes to technical SEO results, we found an interesting trend relating to DOM size. The Document Object Model, or the DOM, is a representation of the source HTML document. This is representation is also called the “node tree”, as it is broken down into nested node elements.

Generally, Google advises against excessive DOM sizes and recommends that pages contain fewer than ~1,500 DOM elements. However, Rank 1 results for top 10 mobile sites averaged at 2,800 elements.

Furthermore, the lower the DOM size, the lower it shows up on Google’s SERP rank. This was a very surprising finding.

Internal links

The report reveals many note-worthy on-page SEO findings. The number of unique internal links and H2 headings, in particular, piqued our interest. Let’s begin with the former.

Internal linking is a positive ranking signal, as it plays a huge part in website navigation, as well as customer conversion.

The main metric in the above graph is the median. The top three of Google results contained close to 200 internal links. It is important to note that the upper percentile is larger, and the lower one is smaller. This means that the trend is shifted up; there are a large number of pages within the top three, and across the board, with a larger number of links.

This is evidence that internal linking is an important ranking factor, as link equity flows effectively throughout the website.

Number of H2 headings

Lastly, the report revealed that the highest-ranking landing pages contained less H2 headings than expected. In fact, the TOP 3 results have a median of one, and in subsequent positions the median increases to two.

When it came to word counts for H2s, the TOP 3 ranking sites on desktop had a median of 4 words within the heading. There is a clear preference for longer H2s in better positions, providing a good keyword optimisation opportunity.

Pure SEO and Whites Agency jointly created the Big Data Analysis for the clothing market in New Zealand, in order to identify clear SEO opportunities within the country’s online clothing retail space. You can download the full report here.

Richard Conway is founder of Pure SEO. The company has won numerous awards and is among Deloitte Asia Pacific's Tech Fast 500.

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